Food, Friends, Feminism

Food, Friends, Feminism

Hi all! I got back to Carleton two days ago, and I’m writing this before my first class of the term. It kind of feels like I haven’t had a break since I went abroad this fall, because a week after I got back, I embarked on a three-week Fellowship that three of my Carleton friends and I had designed to investigate food and identity. We interviewed ~25 female chefs, restaurant owners, and brewers for a documentary (coming this spring), and blogged about their food/baked goods/beer on To give you a taste of what this looked like, here’s a post I did about NAHA, an eatery in Chicago:

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Berlin, but wow they are all about the business lunch in that city. What’s a business lunch to a culture of American productivity, you ask? It’s usually a multi-course meal for a not-too-pricy-price that you can get from the menu to your stomach in under an hour. And NAHA has it Tuesday-Friday 11 AM to 2 PM, and we obviously went.

NAHA’s a pretty fancy place — they’ve gotten a Michelin star for the past 8 years or so, and owner/chef Carrie Nahabedian has the James Beard Award under her belt — and we were all pretty nervous to be eating such an early business lunch (11:30!) before we interviewed the woman behind the menu (1:00!).

Luckily, we had many types of bread to put in our faces while we decided what our 3 courses should be, but even that part was fancy! The butter was situated perfectly in a little dish with a thin paper circle separating it from the harsh world. I got a thick sweet bread, Mabel took a fennel-filled piece, and Brynne got… white bread. It was kind of a Charlie Brown on Halloween situation, if you catch my drift.

After much discussion, we were ready to get down to business (lunch). I got a pumpkin cider soup with goat cheese and other delicious nuts/apricots in it–and please wait while I tell you how it was served to me. A waiter put a dish down in front of me that was empty aside from the pretty dollops of goat cheese sprinkled with the other soup-parts, and then he whipped out a silver pitcher and poured the soup into my bowl. Mabel told me that this is what a “beautiful presentation” looked like.

Maya started off her meal with a risotto (porcini mushrooms & sunchoke) and Brynne followed suit. Mabel actually went off the beaten path and ordered a main course, so she finished off the bread while the rest of us ate our cheesy delights. I should note that there was something green in the risotto that got Maya thinking about wasabi. You know, the green spicy stuff that essaysonline org an adult probably tricked you into eating in your youth. The thing is, Maya kept referring to it as Wabisabi, confusing all parties involved.

Remember when I mentioned that Mabel got a main course? Well, d-d-d-DaYUM, her burger was well worth the wait. Egg sunny side up? Tomato? Greens? Bacon? Served with caramelized onions, peppercorn mayo, and ketchup?? Topped with the crispiest pomme frites imaginable? Clearly, she did her research. But the thing is, when you’re at a restaurant with white tablecloths and a different piece of silverware for every course, and you order a burger, you’re facing a bit of a dilemma. How are you supposed to eat that thing?

A little different than our earlier predicament about how to eat momo, the burger sitch made me nervous because I’d been feeling a little out of place already (remember, I don’t know what to do with my elbows at nice restaurants) and I didn’t want our table of four to draw attention to itself. Luckily, Mabel’s a superhero of confidence and restaurant etiquette, so she called over our waiter and engaged him in conversation about this very issue. He said he “wouldn’t judge” no matter how she chose to eat. So she picked it up.

The rest of us had pretty self-explanatory dishes–in fact, Maya admitted she probably didn’t even need a fork because her rainbow trout practically slid off its skin. Brynne and I both got a squash/beet/goat cheese salad, which reminded me of this Demetri Martin joke that for the life of me I cannot find on the internet, but basically he’s talking about how every time you eat a salad, you basically have to make a bunch of mini salads on your fork. Super funny, super relevant. I really, really liked the squash that was in there (the half moon orange pieces)–they were just a little bit salty and a great texture. We also determined that the yellow-orange beet-like things were golden beets, which I like less than your run-of-the-mill beet-colored-beets.

By the time we’d all finished our dishes, time was a-tickin’ close to our interview time with Chef Carrie — but we still had a dessert coming! When it did come, though, thoughts of the upcoming strike of 1 fell away as we looked at a plate straight out of Chopped. I don’t even know what to call it — it was like a chocolate mousse-y cake that literally had pieces of edible gold on it, with a dollop of caramel/toffee ice cream beside a dollop of salted caramel cream that made you go “OH” after you put it in your mouth.

Like we keep saying, you’ll have to see our final documentary for more deets on our meeting with Chef Carrie, but I will say that her friendly and excited demeanor was a happy surprise after our fancy/reserved meal. When she sat down with us, she immediately stood back up again to hug a friend, and then again stood up to ask that her kitchen prepare a tin of cookies for us. Thanks, Carrie! And thanks for that great Mabel-Meat photo op.

Lynn is a Cinema and Media Studies/Women’s and Gender Studies double major. She’s from the desert! You can catch her telling jokes with the standup group Queens of Comedy and the improv group Cujokra, or trying to ride her bike without using her hands. She’s really into writing for infemous (Carleton’s feminist zine), working at Dacie Moses (the cookie house), and eating (food). One time she applied for a job at Cakewalk and didn’t get it.

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